‘Review laws to free girls from child marriage’

As Tanzania women on Wednesday joined their colleagues in the world to celebrate the International Women’s Day, the Marriage Law Act of 1978 has been cited as an obstacle for women’s rights activists in freeing girls from child marriage in the country.

The observation was made on Tuesday during the International Women’s Day (IWD) intergenerational dialogue organised by Plan International Tanzania in Dar es Salaam.

Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Social Welfare and Development, Ms Fatma Toufiq said despite efforts being made by the government in raising and protecting women and girls some laws have become an obstacle in implementing the agenda of empowering them.

She said early marriage and early pregnancies are the leading problems hindering women to exercise their rights.

Ms Toufiq said some of the existing policies and laws should be reviewed and revised with gender equality stakeholders monitoring the performance of the legislations to ensure that they are well observed to eliminate the problem.

Ms Toufiq added that activists should join hands with a parliamentary committee to help end early marriages and pregnancies that are seriously affecting girls’ prosperity.

Ms Toufiq said the committee will continue to cooperate with stakeholders who defend women’s rights in pressing for the review of all outdated and oppressive laws.

Gender activist, human rights advocate and social service defender Ms Gemma Akilimali said in order to eliminate all forms of violence against women, there must be a participation of women in leadership, political issues and in various development plans.

“It is crucial for women to participate in different developmental engagements. They should not attend home activities alone but rather also ensure they participate in leadership, political issues, economic matters, including striving to know how things are planned,” she noted.

The champion of change and community facilitator, Ms Veronica Mshota said the big problem that hinders the development of women and girls is the existence of patriarchy system urging the society to see how to end it.

She said that poverty is also another problem that causes early marriages and pregnancies among young women. Ms Mshota said the government has a duty of reviewing laws and policies to empower girls and women.

“There are several problems that women are facing with poverty being the major reason causing the spiraling cases of early marriages. There is a need for the government to see how to help women who face these challenge,” Ms Mshota noted.

On the other hand, the Head of Programmes C-SEMA, Mr Michael Marwa said most girls face early marriage challenge because they remain idled after completing the ordinary level of secondary education.

“Students   stay idle for a long time waiting to join A-Level and in some instances this is time when these girls are hoodwinked and end up getting pregnant,” he commented.

The police Head of Gender and Children Desk in Katavi Region A/INSP Judith Mbukwa noted that Katavi leads among regions with high cases of early marriages and pregnancies in the country, saying there is pressing need to educate citizens on their effects on the victims.

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